So many sweet new babies being born recently among my friends, it is making me nostalgic for my own sweet newborns. The nice thing about life these days is that I never have to be nostalgic for long! I have compiled a little list of information that would have made things much less startling the first time around (or the second, or the third.)
1) Whether breastfeeding is easy depends entirely on the baby.
Ruth hated breastfeeding and made it a huge struggle every time I needed to nurse her. If Scott hadn’t been there with me every step of the way, calming both of us down and helping me try all of the tricks to get her to latch, I probably would have given up. When I got pregnant again with Rose, Ruth was only five months old. I continued nursing her for about a month, and then decided to wean her cold turkey at six months. We were both so much happier. She just didn’t like breastfeeding. Rose took to breastfeeding like a duck to water. She latched on like a champ the first time I nursed her, made my milk come in immediately, and actually GAINED weight in the hospital. I was so sad when I got pregnant with Wren when Rose was seven months and I knew I would have to wean her soon. Rose didn’t seem to care. She was just a fan of eating, period. She still is. Wren was somewhere in between the two. She didn’t mind breastfeeding, but she didn’t have a strong enough suck to make my milk come in until five days later.
2) The L&D nurses are not breastfeeding experts (at least not at our hospital), so do not treat them as such.
I made this mistake twice. With both Ruth and Wren we had weight gain issues at the hospital, and the nurses came to me freaking out and telling me I just needed to feed them formula. I am not against formula per se, but I knew starting them on formula right off the bat at the hospital was only going to exacerbate my breastfeeding issues. The nurse I had with Ruth managed to convince me to immediately supplement with formula, and our breastfeeding relationship suffered the whole time I nursed her. Not sure if that is why, but it certainly didn’t help. The solution of the nurse I had with Wren was to nurse her every hour on the hour ALL NIGHT LONG to try to force my milk to come in. Needless to say, it didn’t work and it just led to both me and Wren being hopelessly frustrated and exhausted the next day. Hopefully, this time around, I will have learned my lesson. If the nurse comes up to me with a feeding issue, I am going to tell the nurse to chill out and call my lactation consultant as soon as possible. With Wren, my lactation consultant couldn’t believe the nurse had made me do that, called in a breast pump, and had my milk coming in within hours. Wren was able to supplement with breast milk and had no trouble nursing as well.
3) Newborns poop after every time they eat.
I was wondering why new moms didn’t get much sleep if all you had to do was nurse them all night and you can literally do that in your sleep. Well, it is because you don’t just nurse them all night. You have to get up and change poops all night long. And it is not recommended you do that in your sleep. Also, newborn poop shoots straight out of the diaper, so sometimes you get to change a diaper, pajamas, AND sheets in the middle of the night.
4) You can breastfeed laying on your side.
WHY didn’t anyone tell me this?!! With Ruth, I was getting up every 2-3 hours, getting out the Boppy, and sitting sadly in a chair in the corner and nursing my newborn. It was miserable. I remember someone finally suggested that I just nurse her in the bed laying on my side, and my life got so much better. This little nugget of information was probably automatic for a lot of you, but for some reason I had to have someone tell me. Whoever it was (I don’t even remember, I was in such a haze of sleep deprivation), I am eternally indebted to you. The laugh you probably had at my expense was so worth it.
5) Sometimes it takes forever for the umbilical cord stump to fall off. And it is not the end of the world.
With both Ruth and Rose, their umbilical cord stump fell of before their one week checkup. With Wren, it took more than a month. I was in full freak out mode. Was this thing ever going to come off? Will she be doomed to wearing one piece swimsuits all her life because of this? But it did eventually fall off. Even though they tell you not to do this, my pediatrician gave me the go-ahead to just swab some alcohol on it to dry it out and it finally came off.
6) Colic is as traumatizing as it sounds.
Ruth had colic, and it was just a borderline case because she slept fine all night long. However, during the day we thought she was dying. My parents even sent us to the ER one time because they figured all that screaming cannot be normal. She screamed if you held her, screamed if you put her down, screamed if you tried to change her diaper, screamed if you tried to feed her. The only thing that would calm her down and stop the screaming was our 100 year old vacuum cleaner that was deafeningly loud. We would strap her to her baby swing and turn the vacuum cleaner on right beside her and she would peacefully go right to sleep. When she hit three months old, she became a completely normal baby. It was like the colic never happened. Scott and I were still pretty traumatized about it, though. My heart goes out to the parents dealing with a colicky baby who doesn’t sleep at night.
7) You might be tempted to shake the baby.
Whenever we leave the hospital after having a baby, they make us watch a “don’t shake the baby” video that always makes us laugh. Who the heck thinks that shaking a baby is a good idea? Seems pretty intuitive that you shouldn’t shake the baby. Not sure if every parent needs to see this silly video every time they have a baby. Show it to the parents in jail or in insane asylums, sure. But to all of us normal parents? We don’t need this reminder! Well, let me tell you, if you have had about two consecutive hours of sleep for the past two months and you slowly feel yourself feeling crazier and crazier and it is 4 am and no matter what you do the baby Will. Not. Stop. Screaming., you might be tempted to shake the baby. And the advice in the video is sound. Just put the baby down in a safe place and walk away. Preferably to somewhere where you can no longer hear the baby. Those were the times when I would wake my husband up and tell him that I needed a mental health break. Super dad that he was, he would spring into action, take the baby and somehow calm her down and get her to sleep. But of course, not having to nurse the baby all night every night, he is usually slightly more well rested and much less hormonal.
8) There are weird newborn maladies like blocked tear ducts, baby acne, scaly dry skin, and cradle cap.
They all look super serious (to the point where your visitors might cringe looking at them), but they are nothing to worry about. Some people have gorgeous newborns that look like beautiful chubby three month old babies the second they are born. Some, uh, do not. Incidentally, if your newborn has a blocked tear duct, the best thing to do is to wipe the eye with a cotton ball soaked with warm water as frequently as you can remember to. If your baby has cradle cap, the solution is washing the hair MORE frequently, not less (but be sure to slather on the lotion after their baths because their skin dries out easily). If your baby has baby acne, the best thing to do is make jokes about puberty.
9) Newborns are like vampires. They sleep all day and suck the life out of you at night.
I know you are probably wondering why I describe the newborn stage with nostalgia instead of dread, but you really don’t seem to mind the sleepless nights because you are still in awe of the fact that you participated in the miracle of life and could stare at this beautiful brand new eternal soul all day and all night. At least for the first three months. But it was amazing that looking back, every day-time picture I have of my newborns was of them sleeping, but I don’t remember doing much sleeping those first few months. My friends and relatives would even say, “Is she ever awake?” Why yes, she is. Come spend the night sometime.
10) You will have all of these high ideals and goals for yourself and the baby before she is born, and the more babies you have, the more they will change and adapt to fit you and your children better.
Before Ruth was born, I decided that I was going to be a very strict and regimented mother. She would immediately be put on a schedule, will learn to self soothe, will learn to sleep in her crib, will be a very disciplined baby, etc. By the time Wren was born, I found myself becoming a baby-wearing, cosleeping (for the first two months), nurse on demand, nursing in public with or without a cover, they can nap when we have time and/or on the go, if they need me to soothe them back to sleep I will (within limits), type mama. My pre-Ruth self would be horrified. But that is what works for us. My new goals are: happy, well rested, well fed babies, and a happy well rested mama. There is plenty of time for discipline when they are toddlers. And I have scandalized my family on more than one occasion with my breastfeeding (they are the types that would go off into a room by themselves to nurse) but I have too many children and too little time to fret about it. Also, if I went into isolation every time I breastfed the newborn, I would be a very lonely person indeed. Because another little pearl of information about newborns is that they can take UP TO 45 MINUTES TO FINISH NURSING! And let us keep in mind that in an hour or so you are going to have to nurse them again.
11) Your post-baby body will terrify you.
But you know what? The first time after baby your husband tells you that you’re the most beautiful thing he has ever seen (and he will), you need to believe him. And let all of those fears melt away. Your body will eventually go back to looking not pregnant, and you will feel beautiful again if you just let yourself. Your husband means it when he tells you that you are beautiful, and your marriage will never be the same. In the most awesome and amazing way possible. Also, breastfeeding really helps all that weight go down, but for some reason you hang onto an extra ten-ish pounds. Not sure why. Breastfeeding reserves, I suppose.
But then there is the not so weird thing that I knew even before I had my first newborn. And that is that every child we have had has enriched our lives beyond compare. They make us better people, and we love them so much it hurts. We cannot help but marvel at each one of them every day of their lives and thank God for entrusting us with them.